Kathryn McCormick and Ryan Guzman are “stepping up” to be the next Channing Tatum and Jenna Dewan-Tatum, in Step Up 4: Miami Heat. The fledgling stars tell Shereen Low about finding their feet on the film set.
RAW, unbridled energy, passionate clinches and killer moves – all essential ingredients for a successful dance movie.
Since the series began in 2006, the Step Up films have all been global box-office winners, with the first transforming Channing Tatum from unknown pop-and-locking hunk into full-blown Hollywood heart-throb.
The first two sequels, released in 2008 and 2010 respectively, continued to emulate the original’s success, hence the fourth in the series being agreed.
According to its stars, newcomers Kathryn McCormick and Ryan Guzman, Step Up 4: Miami Heat has raised the bar once again.
The pair, who make their big-screen debuts in the 3D movie as the leads, say the concept of making a third sequel doesn’t faze them.
“There’s no more battling, there are flash mobs instead,” explains McCormick, who plays aspiring dancer Emily.
“It’s all different styles. I think it’s really rare that you see a dance film that doesn’t have some sort of battling at some point.
“This film just represents dance in such a positive way,” she adds.
A finalist from American TV series, So You Think You Can Dance, the contemporary-trained dancer was picked by director Scott Speer after impressing producer Adam Shankman with her performance at the 2010 Oscars, despite having no acting experience.
McCormick, who prefers not to divulge her real age, reveals she never expected to be given the opportunity to act.
“This is something I never thought I would be doing in a million years. It’s surreal, and I’m so grateful for this opportunity,” she says.
“I’ve been dancing for a long time, about three years professionally, and if I look back four years ago, I could never have imagined myself in this position.
“For the director and producers to believe in me and give me a chance was incredible.”
The role has come with its own challenges.
“It is definitely a ‘step up’ from what I’ve been doing and it’s one of the most challenging things I’ve ever done.
“We had a lot of dance rehearsals and then acting rehearsals on the side. At first, when I was in a dance rehearsal, I couldn’t focus on lines, and vice versa,” she recalls.
For Guzman, acting is a whole new world from his usual Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) fighting and modelling.
The toned 24-year-old had never acted prior to his role of rebellious street dancer Sean, and is tipped for big things, after being dubbed “the next Channing Tatum” by Speer.
“The audition process was really scary for me, especially free-styling in front of a bunch of people, but it made me that bit more motivated,” he admits.
“I was practising until 1am, and then showing up early to do my thing.”
He continues: “I heard I was against 300 people and they’re like real professionals. The guy who made it into the last round with me had danced for Madonna and Britney Spears, and had a long list of amazing names.
“He didn’t have to dance for the audition process.
“Me, on the other hand, they put me through the wringer. It was about a month and a half of auditioning – four acting auditions, and then six dance auditions, so it was tough.
“I don’t know what they saw in me, but I’m glad they saw something.”
Things didn’t get easier, even after Guzman won the part by wowing the crew with his “incredible charisma”.
“I have been fight training for years, but dance training was as intense as anything I’ve ever done in my life. It’s physically, mentally and emotionally draining,” he says.
“But I pushed past the fear. Even though they had a dance double ready to fill in for me, I said, ‘No way’. This is my movie, I want to do everything.”
Away from the gritty urban areas of New York and Baltimore, Step Up 4: Miami Heat, as the title suggests, has relocated to the sunny climes of Florida.
“Miami has its own live energy about it, and I think we did it justice, whether it be flash mobs on Ocean Drive in the middle of the day, or dancing on the beach.
“It was just really, really fun,” says Guzman.
Filming in the 40ºC heat proved to be another challenge.
Guzman, who is seen shirtless in a number of scenes in the film, jokes: “I kept myself cool because, luckily, the wardrobe didn’t like to put me in a lot of clothes while I was filming. So that helped a little bit!
“You’re still going to sweat. I lost 15lb in one week just learning the choreography.”
He credits his co-star for being the “yin” to his “yang”.
“She was my rock to lean on, for sure,” he says.
“When I found myself stumped, I found myself talking to her and she would give me inspiration. I helped her more with the acting, and she helped me out with the dancing.
“The motivation to perfect things and work hard created something amazing between us.”
McCormick adds: “I think we really brought the best out in each other. We were in it for the ride so it wasn’t just work. This was family to all of us.”
If lady luck is on their sides, Step Up 4 could be the start of a promising career.
“We would both be honoured to have a career like Channing Tatum,” says McCormick.
“I think we are all carving our own paths and we have completely different histories.
“So, any way, I can tell a story, hopefully dancing or acting, I would be so grateful. I am ready.”
Step Up 4: Miami Heat opens in cinemas on Friday, August 10, with the accompanying soundtrack available now.